West beats Powell, 31-5, in rematch
By Steve Williams
While the regular season finale between Powell and West had been a classic, with the Rebels winning in overtime, the playoff quarterfinal rematch was a knockout.
West used big plays on offense and a bruising defense to eliminate the Panthers 31-5 Friday night at Bill Wilson Field and will host Walker Valley in this week’s Class 5A semifinals. The Mustangs (11-2) from northern Bradley County near Charleston advanced with a 24-20 win at Clinton.
The Rebels (12-1) are now just one victory away from having an opportunity to repeat as state champions.
West Head Coach Lamar Brown didn’t expect to win by such a big margin.
“I did not,” he said. “But it was a physical, hard-fought football game. Each team had to earn every inch tonight and we knew that going in Powell is an unbelievable football program with a great team and they were going to fight and battle. I’m really proud of our kids just to focus and being locked in and executing the game plan. It was one of our better ball games this year.”
Powell sophomore quarterback Deuce Rodgers, who was sidelined in the Sevier County game last week with an apparent injury, did not start, but came in on the Panthers’ second possession, replacing freshman Jaylon Benjamin.
West running back Marshaun Bowers, who appears to be back at full strength after a mid-season injury, scored three touchdowns, including a 23-yard return after he ripped the ball out of the hands of a Powell player that gave the Rebels their biggest lead with 8:37 remaining.
The key moment of the game, however, came late in the first half with the rain starting to fall and West having a first down at its 39-yard line.
“Our kids have been really good in the two-minute drill all year and we’ve got the ball with like 30 seconds to go,” recalled Coach Brown. “We like (said) ‘what the heck, let’s throw a couple and see what happens.’”
Quarterback Hunter Dance quickly tossed short passes to Bowers for three yards and wide receiver Connor Cummings for 10 yards and a first down. Hunter’s next pass was incomplete, but it stopped the clock.
Then came the Play of the Game. From the Powell 48, Cummings hauled in a 47-yard pass falling backwards and landed at the 1-yard line. Powell called timeout with 4.6 seconds on the clock. With his team leading 10-3, Coach Brown elected to go for the touchdown instead of kicking a field goal that would have given West a two-score lead (13-3). Bowers powered his way into the end zone and Patrick Schmid’s PAT made it 17-3 with a little over a second on the clock.
“The Connor Cummings catch was a huge play,” said Brown.
“When you throw it up, good things can happen. And he went up and got one and the offensive line came through on the next play and got us the one yard we needed.”
The two teams were tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter, with Schmid kicking a 23-yard field goal for West and Dylan Stooksbury booting a 44-yarder for Powell.
A 25-yard run by Bowers on fourth-and-one at the Powell 40 led to his 1-yard TD blast that gave the Rebels a 10-3 lead with 3:42 to go in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, West’s Antwain Burdine partially blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by Stooksbury.
Powell did get two points for a safety when the West punter kicked the ball intentionally out of the back of the end zone after the ball was snapped over his head. That trimmed the West lead to 17-5.
The Panthers got good field position when the Rebels had to kick off from their 20-yard line and Connor Wheeler returned it 22 yards to midfield. But Rodgers mishandled a wet ball and was penalized for illegal grounding when he tried to get a pass off under pressure.
Early in the final quarter, Powell defensive end Steven Soles Jr. tackled a West runner for a 4-yard loss and then blocked a punt on the next play, but a Panther touched the ball downfield and the Rebels’ Abel Ancelet recovered the fumble. Powell also was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, which gave West possession at the 50-yard line.
After a 33-yard run by Bowers and a personal foul on Powell, Devin Jamison scored on a 1-yard run to give West a 24-5 command.
Kaden Paz recovered a Powell fumble and Syxx Hoard picked off a Benjamin pass later in the fourth quarter.